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EDO NSW has produced a number of resources and undertakes law reform work on access to justice. You can read our submissions, discussion papers and briefing notes below.
EDO NSW represents individuals and community groups in public interest litigation to protect the environment. Read about our past cases.
Our Fact Sheets on this topic include public participation, access to information and speaking out in public.
Merits Review in Planning in NSW
This EDO NSW special report responds to community concerns about the loss of their right to appeal approvals of large resource extraction projects. The report demonstrates that merits review is an essential part of a well-functioning planning system, and shows that there are clear benefits to allowing third party merits review for major projects in NSW.
The Expert Register is a list of people with scientific and technical expertise who are willing to assist EDO NSW on public interest environmental matters on a pro bono basis (for no fee as a public service) or in limited cases, for a reduced fee
The Expert Register is a vital part of our Scientific Advisory Service. A key aim of the Service is to increase the public's capacity to participate effectively in the environmental planning and development assessment process.
Our in-house environmental scientists often rely on advice from the Expert Register in advising clients, in analysing government policy, in making decisions on whether to take a matter to Court, and in our community education work.
The Expert Register includes academics, government scientists, consultants, and PhD students in a range of scientific and technical fields, including planning, ecology, hydrology, water, air, noise and soil pollution, engineering, public heath, and economics.
The Expert Register is open to experts in all States and Territories, although most referrals to the register will involve matters in NSW. If you are an expert from outside NSW, you should also contact your local EDO office to see if you can get involved in local public interest matters.
Joining the Expert Register
EDO NSW is always interested in hearing from scientific and technical experts interested in joining the Expert Register. We are also seeking to develop relationships with research organizations and environmental consultancies interested in doing pro-bono work.
Please attach a copy of your CV to the application form.
Your role and obligations
The role of the Expert Register is to provide EDO NSW and our clients with objective scientific and technical advice. We inform our clients of this role. If we think that on the basis of your advice our client no longer has a valid case, we will notify our client of this, and may stop acting for them.
You are under no obligation to assist us in a matter. We will contact you if we think you can assist us. Once you know the details of the matter, you are free to decline to assist. We understand that you are busy or may have conflicts of interest in a matter.
You are free to stand down from the Expert Register at any time.
The amount of work involved
You will generally only be asked to assist on a matter once or twice a year or less and each request would typically require a few hours or less of your time. A key aim of the Expert Register is the fair and equitable distribution of public interest matters among scientific and technical experts.
The type of work involved
You may be asked to provide oral advice, written advice, or provide a written review of a document or part of a document. You may also be asked to provide expert evidence in Court, if you choose.
You will not be asked to assist with trivial matters or matters outside your area of expertise. All matters are screened by the in-house environmental scientists to ensure that you assist only on public interest matters of genuine merit.
The type of work you may be asked to assist with includes:
- Pre-decision work - advice on proposed developments or actions prior to an approval decision being made. This mainly involves advice on the impacts of developments and the adequacy of environmental impact assessments and assisting clients prepare submissions to decision-makers.
- Compliance and monitoring work - advice on approved developments or actions. This mainly involves advice on the compliance of developments and actions with conditions of approval or regulatory requirements and assistance to clients in making submissions to regulatory authorities.
- Policy and law reform work - contributions to our policy and law reform work by undertaking research and providing advice on the scientific aspects of government policy proposals and our priority law reform areas.
- Community legal education work - contributions to our community legal education work by presenting at seminars and workshops, contributing to plain-English guides, and preparing fact sheets on scientific issues.
- Expert evidence in Court, if you choose.
You do not have to appear in Court as an expert witness if you do not wish to. When joining the Expert Register, you can indicate your willingness to appear in Court. Most matters referred to an expert will not end up in Court.
How your work will be used
Your advice will normally be used as part of a letter of advice to a client, as part of a submission made directly to a decision-maker or regulatory authority, or to assist us to consider whether to take a matter to Court. The circumstances in which your work is proposed to be used will always be discussed with you. You may provide your advice anonymously if you wish.
Fees for your work
Most of our clients do not have enough money to pay for expert advice. We ask members of the register to assist on a pro bono, no fee basis. Limited funding may occasionally be available, but should not be expected. For expert witness work, we normally have funding available to pay experts on a reduced fee basis.
Benefits of joining
The benefits of joining the Expert Register include:
- Opportunities to keep abreast of developments in environmental law and policy through:
- Free admission to EDO NSW seminars and environmental law workshops.
- Subscription to EDO NSW's weekly e-Bulletin.
- Opportunities to apply your knowledge and skills in the public interest and to help people with limited access to scientific expertise.
- Opportunities to engage in environmental policy and law reform work and community education work.
- Opportunities to be involved in international work through our international program.
- Opportunities to network with other scientific and technical experts and members of the legal profession.
- Positive public exposure for your company, if you want it.
- The opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to good corporate citizenship and high standards in environmental planning and assessment.
- The ability to provide public interest opportunities to staff not normally available in most organizations, which may help to attract and retain staff.
For more information on the Expert Register, please contact Megan Kessler, Scientific Director, on (61 2) 9262 6989 or at email@example.com.
Other frequently asked questions
Who is EDO NSW?
We are a non-profit, non-government community legal centre which provides legal advice and representation to individuals and community groups working to protect the environment.
Who does EDO NSW represent?
We represent individuals, community groups, and organisations. The following criteria are used when deciding whether to represent someone:
- The matter involves a public interest environmental issue, and
- The matter involves a real threat to the environment, and
- EDO NSW has the resources to properly advise on the matter; and
- If the matter involves a significant private interest, the financial means of the applicant are considered.
Is the Expert Register publicly available?
The names of people on the Expert Register are not made publicly available. We will only disclose your name or organisation's name to our client with your prior agreement. You are always able to provide your advice anonymously if you wish.
Will your work be taken out of context or your name used in campaigns?
The in-house environmental scientists will ensure that your advice is not used inappropriately. EDO NSW will never change the substance of your advice. We are not a conservation group and do not run campaigns. The circumstances in which your work is proposed to be used will always be discussed with you.
Who can join the Expert Register?
We aim to tailor the Expert Register to the specific needs of EDO NSW and our clients, and as such, it is not open to all who apply. As a guide, we seek people with 10 years practical experience or more or with knowledge in a specialist area that is relevant to the work that we do.
- The decision on whether to admit a person to the Expert Register is made by the Scientific Director, who may also consult with the Chief Executive Officer and/or the Technical Advisory Panel. In making the decision, the following will be considered:
- The relevance of your expertise to the work that EDO NSW does and EDO NSW's priority areas.
- Whether your area of expertise intersects with environmental issues that are likely to involve a real threat to the environment.
- The number of years of experience you have and where and how you gained your experience.
- The extent to which your area of expertise is already covered by other members of the Expert Register.
- Your standing in the scientific community.
We reserve the right to ask you to stand down from the Expert Register.
Some EDO NSW staff and volunteers.
There are no positions open at the moment.
Our work relies greatly on the commitment of students and professionals who volunteer their time and skills to help protect the environment. We have a number of opportunities for legal volunteers, science volunteers and office volunteers (specialised and general administration).
If you are interested in volunteering with EDO NSW, please submit a Volunteer application form.
All legal volunteers undertake a short trial period with us. If a volunteer position is then offered, we ask you to make a commitment to work at least one day per week for at least three months. Available days are Monday to Friday.
Legal volunteers are exposed to a broad range of work, including:
- Legal research on matters concerning biodiversity, climate change, pollution, planning, mining and water law;
- Assisting in the preparation of court documents and drafting letters and legal advices;
- Assisting solicitors in case work and litigation in the Land and Environment Court;
- Engaging in public interest environmental work for a broad scope of clients;
- Drafting submissions and participating in law reform work; and
- Assisting solicitors in the preparation of educational materials for the community.
We are grateful to lawyers who volunteer with us, if you have practised environmental law and would like to volunteer your time to EDO NSW, please submit a Volunteer application form and choose 'Practicing Solicitor' as the volunteer position you are applying for.
While we are grateful to lawyers who volunteer, please note that our volunteer program is not intended to constitute ‘supervised legal practice’ for the purposes of removing condition 2 from practising certificates.
EDO NSW runs an International Program to provide specialist assistance to organisations across the South Pacific. If you have skills or experience in international development and/or law and have an interest in our International Program, please make a note of this in your application.
Law students who have studied environmental law are encouraged to apply. Law student volunteers:
- need to have, or be in the process of completing, a law degree; and
- must have studied planning and/or environmental law. This means having studied a law subject that covers the fundamental principles and concepts of Australian domestic environmental law, preferably with a focus on NSW.
To apply, please submit a Volunteer application form.
If you have skills or experience in international development and/or law and have an interest in volunteering for our International Program, please make a note of this in your application.
EDO NSW is able to supervise practical legal training (PLT) students. PLT students need to commit to working at least three days per week for at least three months. Priority is given to those who have previously volunteered with us. Please note that all prospective PLT volunteers are required to undertake a trial period before EDO NSW is able to commit to offering PLT supervision.
For more information, contact us.
Volunteers with scientific expertise can support us in two ways, either in the office or via our Expert Register.
- To volunteer in the office, please submit a Volunteer application form and choose 'Science' as the volunteer position you are applying for.
- Our Expert Register is a list of people with scientific and technical expertise who are willing to assist us on public interest environmental matters on a pro bono basis (for no fee as a public service) or, in limited cases, for a reduced fee. For more information visit our Expert Register page.
EDO NSW has some capacity to accept volunteers with administration and other specialist office skills, such as marketing, fundraising research and reporting, video production and editing, communications and project management. Skills in Microsoft Excel are highly desirable.
If you would like to volunteer your skills in the office, please submit a Volunteer application form. Please outline the skills and experience you have to offer in your application.
We play an active role in promoting and furthering law reform and legal education in NSW.
Our solicitors contribute their expertise to external conferences and symposiums and guest lecture at several universities. Our papers are also published in a range of academic journals.
Presentations, papers and lectures that have been delivered by our staff are listed below.
IMPACT! is a contemporary and topical national journal of environmental law
As a national environmental law journal, IMPACT! focuses on the Australian legal context of these issues, with reference to the international situation where appropriate. Recent issues are below. View earlier issues in the IMPACT! archive
EDOs of Australia acknowledges and thanks the Environment and Planning Law Association NSW for sponsoring the production of Impact!
For further information or expressions of interest please contact us on 02 9262 6989 or email us.
We seek to empower the community to participate in environmental decisions and to build capacity to use the law to protect the environment.
We produce plain English educational materials in a range of formats, explaining environmental law and policy and how the community can have their say in decision-making processes. All our publications are available free to the community.
We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, on whose traditional lands our Sydney office is located.
Business Hours: 9:00am to 5:00pm
Street and postal address
Level 5, 263 Clarence Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9262 6989
Free call: (NSW only) 1800 626 239
Fax: (02) 9264 2414
EDO NSW is committed to ensuring that any person or organisation using or seeking to use its services has the right to lodge a complaint about the organisation and to have their concerns addressed in ways that ensure access and equity, fairness, accountability and transparency.
For information about how you may lodge a complaint and how complaints are managed, please view our complaints management policy.
EDO NSW is a community legal centre specialising in environmental law. We provide free initial legal advice.
We have a range of fact sheets to explain the law on different topics, such as tree disputes, pollution, planning and mining.
We also produce a range of plain English publications to demystify the law and encourage participation in environmental decision-making processes.
We have an extensive range of guides to the law that explain a range of environmental and natural resource management laws.
Our national environmental law journal Impact discusses topical environmental law issues from around Australia.
We also produce a free weekly eBulletin to keep you informed about the latest developments in environmental law and policy and opportunities to participate in the decision-making process.
EDO NSW is a community legal centre specialising in public interest environmental law. We help people who want to protect the environment through law. Our core functions are:
Each year the Environmental Defenders Office New South Wales (EDO NSW) provides free legal advice to more than 1,000 individuals and community groups across NSW. We also run free legal workshops for local communities. EDO NSW has run a number of landmark legal cases in the courts and undertakes policy and law reform work at both the State and Federal level.
Our reputation is built on:
Successful environmental outcomes using the law
With 30 years’ experience in environmental law, EDO NSW has a proven track record in achieving positive environmental outcomes for the community.
Broad environmental expertise
EDO NSW is the acknowledged expert when it comes to the law and how it applies to the environment. We help the community to solve environmental issues by providing legal and scientific advice, community legal education and proposals for better laws.
Independent and accessible services
As a non-government and not-for-profit legal centre, our services are provided without fear or favour. Anyone can contact us to get free initial legal advice about an environmental problem, with many of our services targeted at rural and regional communities.
Australian Network of EDOs
EDO NSW is part of a national network of eight independently constituted and managed community environmental law centres located in each State and Territory of Australia. Each EDO is dedicated to protecting the environment in the public interest.